Program spotlight: Ablequest

Fri, 25 May 2018

Ablequest story revised

Ablequest is an integral program on the 2RPH line-up, for many reasons. Not only is it produced by two experienced and dedicated volunteers – Barbara Sullivan and Marni Roper – but it has paved the way for interview-format programming and importantly, explores stories on developments in assistive technology and initiatives for people living with a wide range of disabilities.

Produced and presented from the 2RPH station in Glebe, NSW, Barbara and Marni are the definition of a well-oiled team, so we decided to ask them about producing the program, favourite interviews or moments, and how they each became involved in Ablequest.

From people raising money for charities to special projects and technologies making life a little easier for those living with a disability, Barbara and Marni find topics and interviewees from a wide net of sources. “Often we come across new technology or sporting and cultural initiatives through media, such as print, online, radio, TV, newsletters; medical industry sources; and, expos and conferences,” they said. “Frequently it’s through personal connections of ours or of others at 2RPH.  We’re always looking for suggestions, and we love getting ideas from other volunteers.”

Some of Barbara’s favourite interviews are with a personal friend from her university days, Peter Ford, who founded NeuroSwitch and more recently, NeuroNode, which enables people who are ‘locked in’ to communicate. “Peter was actually the first guest on Ablequest, in 2012, and has returned twice over the years to update us on the progress of his ground-breaking technology. Brilliant, dedicated and humble is how I would describe Peter,” Barbara said. To listen to the latest interviews with Peter, click here and here. “And I think my favourite ‘moment’ was when we were interviewing Professor Jonathan Stone, a scientist from Sydney University, on the efficacy of saffron as a treatment for macular degeneration, who was deep in a scientific explanation when he looked at us and said, “Well, everybody has their favourite molecule”!  Indeed, one does.” To hear that interview, click here.

For Marni, two interviews come to mind as particularly memorable. “One interview was with Lady Cosgrove, wife of the Governor General, which was definitely a one-off!” she said. “And, the second would be Ben Felten, who is completely blind, has represented Australia in rowing and cricket, and was attempting the world land-speed record for blindfold motorcycle riders at over 200 kilometres per hour!” To hear the interview with Lady Cosgrove, head here. Ben Felten’s story can be heard in two parts, the first discusses his achievements and the foundation he set up (listen here) while the second podcasts talks about the motorcycle madness (listen here).

As the program format revolves around interviews, the editing process can be a long one. “Our biggest challenge is editing each segment to fit our program slot of 14 to 14.5 minutes,” they said. “Ablequest is pre-recorded, and like all producers/presenters of 2RPH programs, we are responsible for every step, from research to final production. With an interview, editing is always necessary, often more than less. We have become masters at tight scripting for the introduction!” Barbara adds: “Marni is a very insightful and incisive editor!”

After producing Ablequest solo for a time, Barbara was glad to have another person join her in its production. “I was part of a small group who came together in 2012 to work on this new program,” Barbara said. “It involved more time than the others were able to give so I was doing it on my own. I have always been excited by Ablequest, and was so happy when Marni came on board.”

“Barb and I met through our daughters, who were friends at school. When she found out I was becoming a 2RPH volunteer, she suggested I join her on Ablequest,” Marni said. The rest is history.

Despite the challenges and time commitment, Barbara and Marni enjoy bringing Ablequest to 2RPH listeners. “We both love interviewing such a variety of interesting people and learning about what they do.  We are constantly in awe of the dedication, energy and enthusiasm of these individuals, who often work in a voluntary capacity.  It’s also great getting out and about with Ablequest - to events, expos, conferences and launches,” they said.

“We really are a team, a well-oiled machine after years of working together. We had previously worked together well as volunteers, producing a cookbook for the Parents Association at the school,” they said. “We think alike and it’s a good union of strengths.” A great union that has created a great program.

Be sure to catch Ablequest on 2RPH fortnightly on Fridays at 3pm, with a repeat of the episode broadcast the following Monday at 3pm.